Located in an industry area in the western part of Singapore house a coffee roasting facility which has been roasting commercial grade coffee for the huge local kopi market for over 30-years. Today, gourmet coffee is also roasted under the same facility to meet the growing demand of the new market.
I have had the privilege of visiting the roasting facility when they were well stocked, though I was told that almost half the sacks were cleared before the following photo was taken *gasp*
Tan Lee Et food industry was founded by Mr Tan (standing on the left in the photo above) who today is still involved in the day-to-day operations and coffee roasting! Mr Tan was subsequently joined by his young son Haoxiang who happened to be the youngest R and Q-grader I have ever met! The gruelling certifications process took place in Indonesia as it was not available in Singapore then.
Haoxiang entered the business initially to relief Mr Tan of the physical demands required in the facility before he got more involved in other roles such as machine mechanic, delivery personnel, sales rep and more.
In the “Coffee Playground” where magical chemical reactions take place, I was given a go at operating the air and drum roasters. The roasting machines in the facilities are able to accommodate anywhere from 500-g to 120-kg of green coffee beans per run. The main production roasting machines are way more impressive in terms of technology involved and its sheer size, but are out of bound to photography too.
According to Haoxiang, this trade involves long working hours. And after a whole day of roasting, the body will be tainted in funky shades of yellow. Haoxiang also shared how he met many veterans in the specialty coffee industries when they organized and hosted the SCAE Roasting workshop in the facility many years ago.
Fresh from the sample roasters on that day, we roasted and tasted beans from Aceh Gayo Indonesia, Arabica beans grown in Australia and the rarely seen Liberica.
While the demands for specialty and gourmet coffee are increasing, it is inspiring to know that the trade of traditional kopi roasting are being preserved and passed on to the younger generation. Like many coffee lovers in Singapore, we still love our traditional kopi 🙂
Thank you Mr Tan and Haoxiang for giving me a glimpse of the day-to-day operations in the roasting facility and for sharing your coffee stories.